I am deep in the heart of East Texas spending time with my family for our bi-annual family reunion out at my Aunt and Uncle’s lake front property.
It’s pretty much station vacation out here. The weather is surprisingly awesome (90 as opposed to the typical 107 degree days!) and spending some quality time with my family is always great.
Two of my favorite people in the world, my brother and his wife, drove in from North Carolina and they look amazing. My brother looks like he’s glowing. He’s always been lean and athletic, but today he looks like my yoga teacher, long and lean! He’s actually leaner than I’ve ever seen him, and well… no joke… he’s glowing!
About three months ago they made a huge life decision to change their diet to a 100% plant-based diet.
Now coming from Texas, there of course was a little controversy at the family reunion dinner table when everyone was eating ribs and brisket, but they brought their own food. (Check out the pic!)
And as a Nutritionist, this is a question I get a lot. To eat meat or not to eat meat? That is the question….What is the answer?
First, I think it’s you need to understand a very important point:
Diets are like religions.
Once someone finds something that “works for them”, it’s pretty hard not to share their discovery. They’ve experienced it first hand and so it makes sense that they would completely believe in it’s ability to do for you what it did for them.
(Read the paragraph above with the word “religion” in your head, then read it again with the word “diet” in your head…the two really aren’t that much different!)
But as I know there are many different paths to God, there are also many different paths to nutritional freedom.
And that’s great. But there are as many diets out there in this world as there are people! And if you look at “science” or “research”, you’re going to find just as convincing evidence that will back one type of diet (don’t eat meat) as you’ll find for a whole other type of diet (eat meat).
So as I dig deeper into my schooling at the Institute of Psychology of Eating, I realize there are actually only 3 types of “diets” that you should be concerned with and if you can keep it in this perspective, you’ll have more peace and confidence in your daily food decisions.
This is the type of diet that works for you and your life day in and day out. It’s sustainable for your activity level, your happiness, your lifestyle, and your peace of mind.
This type of diet is great if you have a specific disease and need a specific way of eating that will help in the healing process. There are many experts out there promoting very good therapeutic diets, but the problem lies in our attachment to it.
We think that because the diet worked for this period of time to help with this particular disease, then IT MUST be what I should be doing forever.
This simply is not the case.
Lets take for example, the Pritiken diet, which is low protein, low meat, and very low fat. People with heart disease would go on this diet, and they would literally reverse heart disease. I mean that’s a BIG DEAL! Can you imagine your belief in a diet if it actually reversed heart disease in your body? Awesome right?
But what happened to the people who kept eating this way for months and years later (after the therapeutic effect) is they actually got sick in another direction. They ended up with clinical fat deficiency. Their hair and nails were thin and brittle, they had flaky, dry skin, and because of the inevitable hormone imbalance, they were often very moody and irritable. (This often leads to weight gain even when you are eating minimal calories and fat.)
Fasting can also be an extremely therapeutic diet doing wonders for your health… but can you live on it? Hell no!
So the key is to notice what diet can maintain you day in and day out? What’s a therapeutic one? Once the benefit is there, you stop.
Experimental simply means, “lets try eating this and lets see what happens”. Many of the different diets, supplements, and food products on the market today haven’t been around long enough to know what effect they really have in our body’s.
We are literally part of a huge food experiment when we partake in eating foods with artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or take different supplements.
And there’s nothing wrong with that! I’m not bashing this… I think it’s great! Because we get to choose what we want to partake in!
This is where you get to use your judgment, wisdom, intelligence, and insight… and you ask, “is this the kind of experiment I want to partake in?”
Do I want to eat artificial sugar (color/preservatives) even though it’s only been around for a short period of time?
Do I want to consume dairy even though my family lineage never drank it?
Do I want to eat a vegetarian even though my ancestors never did?
Now you have the power to make smart decisions for yourself. You can think, “hmmm… I could follow this diet for 4 weeks, and I may be able to lose some weight, or heal my gut, but then I know I’ll have to do something different afterwards.”
And this is what makes nutrition so exciting. There really is no one way of eating. What matters most is to build upon your nutritional and body wisdom to know what is right for you. And when I use the word “know”, I don’t mean to know it from your head. You Know it from your gut, and your heart.
So back to the original question: should you eat meat or not?
From a nutritional standpoint, if you choose to eat any animal product at all, the best thing you could do for your health is to make sure you are choosing quality. Organic, grass-fed, free-range. Know your farmers and know your ranchers.
And if you are choosing not to eat animal products, make sure you are getting enough protein in the forms of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans/legumes, and quality protein powders like hemp or pea, while limiting the amount of soy. (It’s so easy to over use soy-an overly processed estrogen mimicking food.) And take care not to overload your diet with junk carbs (breads and pasta’s) and tons of “vegan donuts and cupcakes”.
And the best thing you could do (in regards to health) with either choice is to eat more plants.
But when it comes to making the decision for yourself, there is a Knowing deep in your heart (and yes, in your gut!) that only you can know.
So go out there and eat some cow! …. Or don’t!